Correction 2:58 p.m. Monday, Oct. 18: Options has changed the location for the In Her Shoes event to the Hays Arts Center Annex, 1010 Main St. It will still be 6 to 8 p.m. Oct. 26.
By CRISTINA JANNEY
She sat quietly painting a small landscape scene in all black — the barren ground and a lifeless tree.
Members of the community were asked to attend a Paint the Town Purple painting session at Union Pacific Park Oct. 9. Purple is the color of domestic violence awareness. Victims could paint about their feelings about abuse. Advocates were encouraged to leave messages of hope.
The survivor, who wished not to be named, said it was hard to put things into words, but the painting was helping.
"It's hard to see color," she said. "The world just doesn't seem that bright to me right now."
Options Domestic and Sexual Violence Services hosted the event as part of National Domestic Violence Awareness Month.
"I think art can be very healing," Jennifer Hecker, Options executive director, said. "When we experience trauma, we often close off parts of ourselves for self protection. Art can help people let go of some of those things.
"Creativity can help to feed hope," she said. "Hope can spring forward and healing can happen. You can express things creatively that people can't always articulate."
The artwork created at the event will be made into a collage that will be displayed at Fort Hays State University.
Other awareness events continue through the month.
Options will have an In Her Shoes Role Model event from 6 to 8 p.m. Oct. 26 at Hays Arts Center Annex, 1010 Main. The public is invited.
This role play will increase awareness of the struggle survivors of domestic violence face. By being assigned different characters, such as law enforcement, judge, advocate, abuser, victim, the participants get to be a part of the life of a fictional victim. These roleplays are windows into the lives of those who have a part in the journey of a survivor of domestic violence.
"It's really a way for people who don't understand what it's like for a victim to reach out in the community and get the help they need. It's very complicated," Hecker said.
"This is a sneak peek for people who aren't familiar with domestic violence to see what it's really like so we can start coming up with solutions to make accountability in our community happen more frequently ... to prevent violence from happening and help people recover if they have had violence happen to them."
Options continues its Purple Light Nights through October. Local residents and businesses are encouraged to use purple lights outdoors to show their solidarity for people who have survived domestic violence. Purple light bulbs are available free at the Options office, 2716 Plaza Ave., Hays.
You can also see the purple lights around Hays in participating salons and spas. These businesses are participating in a window awareness decorating competition.
The Hays Public Library will share the book walk for, "A Terrible Thing Happened," by Margaret Holmes at the Union Pacific Park weekends through October. This book is especially engaging for children ages 4-7 and discusses a child dealing with trauma.
"Domestic violence, I think, is the silent scourge of our community, of our culture," Hecker said. ... "If we don't talk about it, we can't make people aware. If people aren't aware that it's going on, they don't know how to step forward and help."
Public events also help let survivors know there is a place they can go to receive help, she said.
Options has also recruited salon employees to spread the word about its resources. The salons have an opportunity to participate in a special free training through the Cut it Out program.
The Beauty Community Against Domestic Abuse is a program dedicated to mobilizing salon/spa professionals, students and others to fight the epidemic of domestic abuse in communities across the United States.
Cut it Out builds awareness of domestic abuse through awareness materials to be displayed in salons, the “Give the Power Back” initiative to involve salons in helping local domestic violence agencies, and training salon/spa professionals and students to recognize warning signs and safely refer clients to resources.
"Survivors of domestic abuse create a rapport with their hairdressers," said Anniston Weber, campus advocate and Cut it Out trainer. "If we are able to provide training to those hairdressers on how to identify domestic abuse in their clients, we can essentially create a pathway to healing when it's identified by a party they trust."
Participating salons include Salon Ten O Seven, Hays Academy of Hair Design, Brickhouse Day Spa, Salon MUAH, J Studio and Salon, Emerald Image Salon, Desbien Designs Salon and Park Avenue Salon.